Welcome back Serie A: can anyone steal Juventus’ scudetto crown?
Serie A finally returns to our screens this weekend, so Coral contemplate whether any resurgent Rome or Milan teams can break champions Juventus’ stranglehold on the Scudetto.
The Old Lady are odds-on at 4/7 to lift their fifth successive league title, but have had a significant face-lift since last season, when manager Massimiliano Allegri took them to within touching distance of a treble. So, perhaps this could be the best time, with changes afoot all across the Italian top flight, for a rival to take advantage.
While the Turin giants have added some exquisite attackers to their ranks in Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala, as well as a potentially brilliant back-up in Simone Zaza, last term’s top scorer Carlos Tevez’s inspirational goal hauls and effort will be tough to replace.
Furthermore, in midfield, Allegri, in charge for his second campaign, has even bigger gaps to plug with Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, both equally instrumental in their differing roles, having headed for pastures new.
A host of new players have arrived in Piedmonte, including custodian competition in Norberto Neto, defensive shield Sami Khedira and, if rumours are true, Porto defender Alex Sandro could also arrive. Yet, there is still a sense that Juve have been weakened.
Hoping to capitalise on the situation will be Italian capital clubs Roma (7/1 joint second-favourite for the Scudetto) and Lazio (12/1), but both, as usual, are not in the same ballpark financially.
The Giallorossi are forever the bridesmaid, never the bride, in recent seasons, though a quartet of cracking loan signings, namely Chelsea-owned winger Mohamed Salah, Manchester City marksman Edin Dzeko, borrowed Arsenal stopper Wojciech Szczesny and Genoa’s excellent Iago Falque, could change all that.
If they perform to the best of their abilities, these four signings could push them closer than ever, working in tandem with the experience of Stadio Olimpico icons Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti. Though the Romans’ expensive loan stars did come at a price, with promising pair Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Bertolacci, both former academy products, offloaded to AC Milan; decisions Roma could rue.
Noisy neighbours Lazio, meanwhile, will likely suffer the pitfalls of a third-place finish. Champions League exposure will do the club wonders, but first the Eagles must secure safe passage past play-off foes Bayer Leverkusen.
Should they do so, a gruelling group schedule awaits, which could mean curtains for a repeat performance, considering the amount of lavish spending taking place in Lombardy.
Despite savvy scouting landing the likes of Felipe Anderson and experienced heads such a Miroslav Klose and Lucas Biglia, Lazio may not be able to compete if they have one eye on the continent.
Campania club Napoli fly the flag for the south, meanwhile, but are surprising 7/1 shouts for Scudetto glory, having parted ways with another manager in Rafael Benitez.
Mainstays such as skipper Marek Hamsik and goal machine Gonzalo Higuain have shown they can only drag the Little Donkeys so far, while solid signings like midfielder Mirko Valdifiori and canny new coach Maurizio Sarri should keep them there, or thereabouts, without making too much of a splash.
As for Milan juggernauts AC (16/1 to win Serie A) and Inter (also 16/1 shouts), there is a weight of expectation, particularly in the black and red half of the San Siro. Always keen to keep up with the Jones’, the Nerazzurri will, at the very least, be hoping to gatecrash the top three.
With experienced Roberto Mancini in charge and defensive recruits Miranda, Jeison Murillo and Barcelona loan star Martín Montoya, Inter should certainly be in the mix for Champions League football.
Yet, another loan in the shape of City’s injury-prone Stevan Jovetic, plucked from Manchester to support main marksman Mauro Icardi, may not be enough to compensate for the losses of Croatian schemer Mateo Kovacic and Switzerland winger Xherdan Shaqiri.
AC, on the other hand, will understandably have their eyes on the big prize. Could they be the surprise Serie A contenders needed to shake-up Italian football, which is at threat of stagnating under Juve’s dominance?
Flashy signings such as prolific Carlos Bacca and exciting Luiz Adriano, plus controversial coach Sinisa Mihajlovic drafted in to iron out defensive issues, certainly suggest so. Yet, with so many intriguing characters flung together, the Rossoneri’s mooted rejuvenation is equally as likely to implode as see them explode into title contenders.